by Jamie Mack
Laura Van Gilder is one of the most accomplished cyclists in the US road scene. Racing full time since 1991, she has recorded over 200 victories on the road and is known for having one of the most powerful sprints in the peloton. Last year, to the chagrin of ‘cross racers everywhere, LVG turned that power towards the ‘cross scene. tearing through most of the races in the Mid-Atlantic and up and down the East Coast before taking a fourth at Nationals and heading to Europe for a top-twenty finish. All of that in her first ‘cross season. Cyclocross Magazine was able to catch up with Laura as she made final preparations for her second World Championships. Find complete coverage, photos, reports and replay our live coverage from Saturday and Sunday in our 2010 Tabor Cyclocross Worlds Coverage Center.
Cyclocross Magazine: Been hearing a lot about the weather over there. Snowy and ccccoooolllldddd.
Laura Van Gilder: The first day was very cold, almost hard to take a deep breath. It has warmed considerably to about 34′ F. It seems to snow a bit most nights and flurry on and off.
CXM: Temperatures aside, two years racing ‘cross and two trips to the World Championships. Not a bad start.
LVG: I feel extremely fortunate to be at my second World Championships in only my second season of cross racing. I know that I have so much more to learn and I look forward to my next season to begin to dial in some more technique in my riding. The competition gets tougher each year, and I want to remain a contender for as long as possible.
CXM: For someone already looking to the future, it must be reassuring to have such a network of support around you. The way the Mid-Atlantic community came together was impressive, though as a member of that community myself, it wasn’t wholly surprising.
LVG: The fundraising efforts of the Mid-Atlantic community made this trip possible, without a doubt. This is an enormous expense, especially after a busy US ‘cross campaign, and it felt financially overwhelming. Without the backing of the East Coast contingent, I doubt that I would have been able to make the trip. The bonus of their efforts was the staging of two ‘cross events on back-to-back weekends.
CXM: Holding training races as part of the fundraiser was a stroke of brilliance. It gave the folks that stepped up, including some of your C3 teammates, a little more for their support and allowed everyone to get together to inflict that extra little bit of punishment on each other, or to see how they stack up against a Worlds competitor.
LVG: I knew that I couldn’t afford to head to Europe before World’s, again due to the expense and logistics of pulling it together. The practice races made it possible to remember what the effort of racing was like as well as work on technique. There was a great turnout, considering it was perfect weather for a long road ride, and I appreciated having people out there to create the race environment. I am totally blessed to call the Mid-Atlantic ‘cross scene and C3 home, because they have been the impetus behind my development as a rider. They have given me the tools to achieve the success I have in such a short time.
CXM: And there has been a good deal of success. Racing in the mid-Atlantic, you’ve certainly seen a lot of mud in that short time. How are you in the snow?
LVG: I was hoping for snow. I can’t really say why, since I don’t have lots of experience riding snow. All I know is that when we had snow in the east over Christmas and I headed out to train, I felt like I handled it well. The ice which is hidden below adds a completely unpredictable element, which I don’t really look forward to dealing with. I will say that the conditions could level the playing field, but truly the great riders will still be great, barring incident.
CXM: 19th last year at Worlds was an impressive finish to the first year of your ‘cross career. Any expectations going to Tabor?
LVG: Of course I am hoping to repeat a top-twenty performance. Is it a given? No way. Are there any givens in cross? Well, perhaps to some, but at my level, I will hope for a clean ride where I am able to give everything I have to the course and to be strong and walk away satisfied. I be happy to remember all the skills I have learned and use them without distraction.
CXM: OK, enough about you. Everyone is pulling for Katie Compton to get over the leg cramps, and Amy Dombroski is having a remarkable season. You’re new to ‘cross, but you’re one of the most experienced racers in the US. Any insight on how the team measures up to the competition?
LVG: I believe that our US Team is very strong. On the women’s side, it goes without saying that we could have several podium contenders, depending on how the race plays out. Katie has proven her consistency and strength each year, and it is evident that this year she has been a real standout. I have every hope that she has a superb day on the bike. Amy and Meredith [Miller] have been on the fast track this season, and each of them has developed herself into stellar ‘cross competitors. I respect how far they have come in every aspect of their riding. Mo [Bruno Roy] has proved throughout the season that she knows how to ride and win races on lots of courses and in epic conditions. She is a seasoned ‘cross racer who has a calm and confident demeanor that will serve her well on a course that will be sure to test your ability. I expect a great ride from her as well.
CXM: After ending my season hunched over in the medical tent, I’m pretty envious. Racing the World Championships must be a great way to end the season.
LVG: What…cross season has to end? Say it isn’t so. Honestly, I will be sad to see the season end because ‘cross adds so much excitement to my racing season. But I am also really looking forward to a break. I considered going skiing, which I have managed to put on hold for many years. I’ll be busy walking dogs at our local animal shelter since I find that so rewarding. Then I’ll begin to prepare for another road season followed by another ‘cross season.
CXM: Any other thoughts that we can pass along?
LVG: Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible!!